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NEW DELHI : The ministry of civil aviation (MoCA) on Thursday released the updated draft Drone Rules, 2021 for public consultation, which will soon replace the UAS (unmanned aircraft system) Rules 2021 that was released on 12 March 2021, the ministry said in a statement.

According to the draft Drone Rules 2021, operating drones without unique identification number will not be allowed, unless exempted. Drone operators will have to generate a unique identification number of a drone by providing requisite details on the digital sky platform.

Digital sky platform is an initiative by MoCA to provide a secure and a scalable platform that supports drone technology frameworks, such as NPNT (no permission, no take-off), designed to enable flight permission digitally and managing unmanned aircraft operations and traffic efficiently.

The draft Drone Rules 2021 also have safety features such real-time tracking beacon, and geo-fencing, which are expected to be notified in future and a six-month lead time will be provided for compliance.

Digital sky platform will also be developed as a business-friendly single-window online system with minimal human interference and most permissions will be self-generated.

A copy of the draft Drone Rules 2021 has been reviewed by Mint.

The draft Drone Rules 2021 also state that an interactive airspace map with green, yellow, and red zones will be displayed on the digital sky platform. While yellow zone has been reduced from 45 km to 12 km from nearby airport perimeter, no flight permission is required up to 400 feet in green zones and up to 200 feet in the area between 8 and 12 km from the airport perimeter.

No pilot licence will be required for micro drones used for non-commercial use, nano drones and for research and development (R&D) organizations operating such drones.

The draft Drone Rules 2021 further state: There will be no restriction on drone operations by foreign-owned companies registered in India; import of drones and drone components will be regulated by DGFT; security clearance will not be required before any registration or licence issuance; and that there will be no requirement of certificate of airworthiness, unique identification number, prior permission and remote pilot licence for R&D entities.

Meanwhile, coverage of drones under Drone Rules 2021 has been increased from 300 kg to 500 kg and will cover drone taxis, while Issuance of Certificate of Airworthiness has been delegated to Quality Council of India and certification entities authorized by it.

MoCA will also facilitate development of drone corridors for cargo deliveries and a drone promotion council will be set up to facilitate a business-friendly regulatory regime.

The last date for receipt of public comment is 5 August, MoCA added in the statement.

The recent incident at the Jammu Air Force Station has again put the focus back on safety and security risks associated with drone operations, said Anjan Dasgupta, partner at DSK Legal.

"The current draft is a welcome move and will go a long way in facilitating investments in drone technology in India. This is particularly interesting due to the fact that in spite of the recent security threat, the government went ahead and took cognizance of the feedback given by the stakeholders and pushed through this simplified legislation. This simplifies the process of registration and brings to the forefront concept light touch monitoring," Dasgupta said.

"The Ministry of Civil Aviation’s decision to liberalize the drone policy even after the recent drone incidents in Jammu showcases the government’s bold approach to promote the use of the drone and focus on the development of counter-drone technology to address the threat posed by rogue drones, " said Smit Shah, director of industry body Drone Federation of India.

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